We’re all familiar with how a team of four can communicate effectively with each other, but as the team grows, communication starts to break down between individuals, and the team begins to need more organization.

When you dig into that idea, you find that the problem is not with sending information. You can stand on a stage and send a message to hundreds of people, or send an email that gets copied to a list of tens of thousands. Sending information actually scales quite well.

It’s receiving information that breaks down. When you have to pay attention to the work of three other people, things work smoothly. But it’s exhausting and unsustainable to pay attention to the work of ten.

Alarm fatigue is the same thing, and it’s an ancient idea that goes all the way back to the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. False alarms aren’t just annoying, they’re dangerous, because they consume attention that would otherwise be available for handling a real emergency.

How often does your team’s pager go off? How many automated emails do you get each day? How many email filters have you set up just so that you can find the things that are important? All of these things contribute to the same thing that breaks down communication on large teams, or causes people to ignore noisy alarms: attention fatigue.

The fantastic thing about a DevOps culture, however, is that everybody is empowered to do something about it. Software doesn’t get attention fatigue. By being selective about what information our systems are sending to us, and automating the rest, we can save our attention for things like shipping that new product or feature, or getting home a little earlier each day.